Members Go on a Late-Session Spending Spree
Lawmakers are people, too. They give, and they receive. And amid the marathon partisan (and intraparty) griping over everything from the farm bill to the mammoth $555 billion spending bill, many of them managed to squeeze in some holiday shopping before splitting town for the Christmas recess.
Some, including an anxious House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), hadn't found the time yet. "I'm in deep doo-doo right now," he confessed.
The wildest spender of them all, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), did his shopping last weekend. He didn't want his wife reading about her gift in this column, but he gave us a clue: "My wife hates to shop, so I buy clothes for her. . . . Then she'll take half of it back because she thinks it costs too much."
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) didn't want to blow the surprise for his wife, either -- or he didn't want her to find out that he hasn't thought about it yet. "Why would I tell you when I'm trying to surprise her?" asked the dead ringer for Mr. Scrooge.
But Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) risked telling us. LaHood, who's retiring at the end of this Congress, is going for nostalgia. He sneaked into his wife's jewelry box and took all seven of her official spouse lapel pins -- American flag pins, much like the members' pins -- and had them made into a bracelet. "She'll love it," he said, smiling proudly.
In the category of What to Get the Woman Who Has Everything (but Her Seat), Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) knows his gift will be a winner, because his wife picked it out herself during a recent weekend in New York. His wife, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, who was defeated in her bid for reelection to the state Senate last month, picked out a pricey watch at David Yurman on Madison Avenue. "It's expensive," Davis told us. "It cost me a lot more than the weekend in New York."
Most practical gift giver in Congress: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), whose main motivation was finding peace with her directionally challenged hubby, John. She's outfitting his car with a GPS because they've been getting lost -- and into arguments -- when they go to parties around Washington. "He never likes to ask for directions, so I thought if it was a soothing woman's voice, that would be good," Klobuchar told us yesterday. (She also got him an ice-cream maker. . . . Shhhh, it's a secret!)
Stevens's Aborted Raid on FBI
It's true that in Washington, adversaries often wind up drinking together after hours. But when insiders at the FBI saw that Sen. Ted Stevens had RSVP'd "yes" to last Friday's annual director's holiday bash, the hunters couldn't quite conceive of partying with the prey. FBI agents raided the Alaska Republican's home less than five months ago as part of a sprawling corruption probe.
Every member of Congress is invited to the party, but Stevens was among those who had replied to say he'd be attending. But the embattled senator must have gotten cold feet: He was a no-show at the packed party, where handcuffs and holsters abound .
Five years ago today, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) resigned as incoming majority leader because of his ill-fated remarks hailing then-Sen. Strom Thurmond's1948 segregationist presidential campaign. President Bush helped toss Lott overboard. This week, as Lott was preparing to retire from the Senate, he found himself yukking it up with the president at the White House.
Lott told On the Hill that Bush even joked that he may join the Mississippian in the lobbying sector. Lott is considering going to work with longtime friend John Breaux, the former Democratic senator from Louisiana who bolted from the Patton Boggs lobbying firm to launch his own shop starting next month.
Lott confessed he has started taking calls from law and lobbying firms, but he doesn't want to go to "some big ol' law firm."
Lott has already met with uber-lawyer/agent Bob Barnett, who is likely to be handling the former GOP leader's job search. His resignation was handed in just before midnight Tuesday -- in time to avoid a new two-year ban on lobbying his old colleagues.
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) appears to be keeping at least one promise: not to seek reelection. Craig -- who famously announced he'd retire months ago after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in a Minnesota airport restroom, then changed his mind -- ushered his likely successor around the Capitol Tuesday. He introduced Idaho Lt. Gov. James E. Risch (R) to GOP senators and even to Democrats such as Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.).
"Max, I want you to meet the next senator from Idaho," Craig told Baucus. "I'm sorry to disappoint you."
With another year in office to go, Craig said yesterday that he will start 2008 in California. He and his wife made lists of three places they wanted to visit, and both picked Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl parade and the famous college football game. Craig told reporters he's not going to the "granddaddy" of bowl games, but is just going to watch the parade and see "where the floats are made."